It was the summer of 1953. My sister and I stood on my uncle Louis Cleage’s dock in front of his cottage in Idlewild, Michigan holding our dolls. The summer of 1953 my mother, sister and I stayed with her parents on the East side while my father stayed with his parents on Atkinson. We were between houses as a Church fight had resulted in us having to vacate the parsonage. We moved to the new parsonage at 2254 Chicago at the end of the summer.
I remember riding on the floor of my grandparent’s car on the way there, my grandmother reading to us by kerosene lamp during a storm that put the electricity out, fishing off of the dock, the catfish that lived underneath it and being out of the city for an extended time for the first time in my life.
On the left my Uncle Henry is holding a ten inch blue gill that he and my mother caught in September of 1977 in a boat off of my Uncle Louis’ dock on Lake Idlewild. They would fillet them and freeze them in empty milk cartons.
On the right is a boat in front of Louis’ cottage on Idlewild Lake. I can’t quite make it out, but could be them catching the above string of fish.
In June, 1979 my mother sent to the Emergency Land Fund’s newspaper “Forty Acres and A Mule” her recipe for cooking blue gills. I wish I had a plate of those blue gills right now.
I just remembered this letter with a drawing of a fish that my mother wrote to Henry from Idlewild in 1956.
“In between showers, the children & I go outside to see what’s up. The lake is full of minnows & baby bass & even some half-size bass who stay around our beach. But the rowboat isn’t even down the hill – and the other boats are too fast – everything is gone before you even get to it – including the lake.
I’ve spent two evenings with Louis & his guests – and they took me out to “night club” – but they’ve given me up, I think, as a confirmed “prude” – but a pleasant innocuous one. I’ve been reading the book about Bronson alcott (no, I won’t tell you who he is) and also…”
I was going to write about the time when we hand printed fish one spring in Idlewild. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have saved any of our prints. I did not know printing fish was a Japanese art form called Gyotaku. Ours were not as lovely as those at the link, but they were interesting.
Note: My sister tells me she has some of those prints. Whenever she finds them, I will add them to this post.
In the summer of 1945 my parents moved from Los Angeles, where my father had been studying film making, to Springfield, MA. He was the new pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church, an historic African American church. During their trip across country they stopped in Detroit to see their families. A trip to my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild was included. More photographs from that trip can be seen here – Idlewild 1945.
Back in the day, my uncles Hugh and Louis Cleage used to go up to Idlewild and ski. Sometimes my boy cousins got to go with them, but never any of the girls. It was a male bonding time, I guess. Anyway, we never did learn to ski, my sister and I, while the boy cousins became quite good at it. They sometimes went to Caberfae, a skiing resort very close to Idlewild. You can read about the history of Caberfae, with photographs, here Caberfae Peaks: 75 Years of Michigan Skiing.
My kids went cross country skiing there a few time. I wonder if I have any photos. Don’t seem to.
The summer of 1956, my mother would sometimes row over to the “island”, which was downtown Idlewild, not a real island, although you did have to go over a bridge or a drainage pipe to get there. At that time, Idlewild was booming, a place for black people to go in segregated America and forget about all that for awhile. Big name acts preformed at the Flamingo Club and there was a skating rink in the club house. But when we rowed over in the morning, we were going to get the paper or milk or something else mundane.
Sometimes my sister Pearl and I would take our savings and shop at Lee-Jon’s or at Ma Riddle’s Log Cabin. At Lee-John’s we bought tiny bears with movable limbs, about 3 inches tall. At Ma Riddle’s, we mainly looked while she tried to sell us salt and pepper
shakers that looked like picnic tables. Her store was a real log cabin. I don’t remember going inside because it was so small that the front was a shutter she raised and lowered and you looked at the merchandise right there.
I wonder why we weren’t wearing life jackets in the photo above. We certainly couldn’t swim at the time. There were life jackets because I remember playing in the water and wearing them. The lake was 4 miles around and there were spots, my Uncle Henry used to say, where the bottom had never been found.
My grandfather, mother, sister and I were spending several weeks at my Uncle Louis Cleage’s cottage in Idlewild. We made a day trip to Ludington, on Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from Idlewild. We had walked out to the light house, which was no longer in use. 1956 was the year I wore glasses.
In this picture, taken facing land but on the same pier, you can see how the cement walk slopes down toward the lake. There was a flat part down by the water where fish had washed up and they were flopping around trying to get back to the water. My sister Pearl and I climbed down and were throwing the fish back in the water until our grandfather noticed and told us to come up and stop it before we fell in the water. We did it but we were not happy about it.
My Aunt Gladys sent word this weekend that my parents did, indeed, spend some time in Michigan before moving on to Springfield. These photographs are in an album and labeled “En Route to Springfield.” Most of them were taken in Idlewild, at my Uncle Louis’ cottage. There were only a couple taken in Detroit, all of my cousin Dee Dee and her mother, Mary Vee in my Graham grandparents yard. My father may have been taking the photographs in Idlewild, because he doesn’t appear in any of them. Henry and Hugh are not in the photos because, I suppose, they were still on the farm.